Menstruation is the normal vaginal bleeding due to the shedding of the lining of the uterus that occurs as part of a woman’s monthly circle to prepare her body for pregnancy. Menarche refers to the first menstrual cycle of menstrual bleeding in female humans. It is considered both from a medical and social perspective as the central event of female puberty as it signals the possibility of fertility. About 52% of female population in Nigeria is of reproductive age and menstruating. Menstruation and menstrual practices still face many social, cultural, and religious restrictions which are a big barrier in the path of menstrual hygiene management. In many parts of the country especially in rural areas girls are not prepared and aware about menstruation hence facing many difficulties and challenges at home.
Reports has it that 1 in 10 girls in Africa miss school because they don’t have access to menstrual products or because there aren’t safe, private toilets to use at school. In many rural areas in Nigeria and globally, many young girls are faced with period poverty which is a global issue affecting those who don’t have access to safe, hygienic menstrual products they need. Poverty being the major cause as most of the young girls who face this are from low income families who could barely afford to eat. In a bid to source other alternatives these girls end up using many unhygienic materials during their flow, some of which are the use of dirty rags, tissue paper and leaves which exposes them to risk of infections.
Period poverty hass made lot of girls miss out on so many opportunities as they fear being shamed when they are stained. In many rural communities girls are faced with the option of leaving school entirely or monthly when they are on their flow due poor facilities in schools, no water in the toilets, no pad dispenser, no clinic to attend to those having cramps etc.we also cannot ignore the fact that many young girls do a lot of unrealistic things which includes exchanging sex for money to meet their menstrual hygiene needs. This and many more are challenges faced by young girls because of their biological nature.
NGO’s and individuals has a role to play in order to promote menstrual health and hygiene management and education by creating awareness and emphasizing the use of reusable sanitary products such as menstrual cups, reusable pads or the natural sanitary products made from materials like banana fiber, bamboo fiber, sea sponges, water hyacinth in place of rags, leaves and tissue paper, young girls should be fully informed about menstruation and menstrual hygiene and also given the full support they need even before they approach menarche, this should be done through school awareness programs and by parents and guardians at home.
Another reason why menstrual hygiene is neglected is due to gender inequality, Women voices being ignored within households, communities and development programs, government should ensure that women are also carried along in decision making, Men should be encouraged to support and influence women and girls in managing menstruation, through many roles as husbands, fathers, brothers, student, Leaders and policy makers, meaning that men should not be left out in menstrual health and hygiene education in order to change their perception and make them aware of their roles regarding menstrual health and hygiene management. Sex education should be made mandatory especially in secondary schools, as it helps adolescents discover their sexual identity, protecting themselves from sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, making them aware of the physiological changes occurring in the body, and how to take care of personal hygiene.
Government should ensure the distribution of sanitary materials in schools and educational institutes, most especially public schools, where most students come from very poor background, taxes on Sanitary products companies should be reduced, this could go a long way in making sanitary pads affordable and accessible, schools should also make provision for menstrual packs, clean toilets, and availability of water for students to be comfortable in school whilst on their periods. Myths (a widely held but false belief or idea) surrounding menstruation should be debunked, and placards should be placed in school as a reminder to young girls that menstruation is biological not a disease or a curse.